Originally I was only going to take a six-week maternity leave. That all changed when the boys were born at 34 weeks and spent weeks in NICU. When Micah caught RSV and was in the PICU in a children’s hospital an hour away…I knew I wanted to take a longer period of time to be with them. I am a teacher. I was going to go back to work in December but extended my leave to March 3rd. By the time I go back to work, I will have taken a total of six months off of work. I was able to be paid full-time from September until mid October. From that point I was granted the six weeks of Family Leave Act. Still, it was not my full income and after that was exhausted we were left to live off of half of our income…when our family doubled. As most of you know, when you have babies, your bills do not magically stop or decrease..in fact, they INCREASE (obviously). Add diapers, formulas, baby supplies, and all of that jazz to the list and things can get interesting. So how were we able to make it successfully? Here is what we did:
1. Cut back on all of the extras.
This included eating out, shopping for ourselves (anything we did buy was baby related for the most part), carpooling when we were going out with friends (to save on gas)…if we did catch a movie, we ate before the movie to avoid caving in to the price of theater food. When I’m working I usually get my nails done along with my eyebrows every two weeks or so. While on leave, I get my eyebrows done twice a month and that’s it, no manicures or pedicures (oh, the sacrifice…just kidding). I also got a haircut once and will cut my hair one more time before I go back to work. No Starbucks every other day or smoothies from Wawa (Pumpkin Cream…obsessed).
2. Breastfed as long as I could.
My goal was to breastfeed for six months. I made it for about five months until my supply dried up. Micah was breastfed for a much shorter time than Josiah, because of his reflux/digestive issues. Josiah made it until five months, and then we switched him to formula. This helped during the first few months because we were able to save on formula. I also pumped like crazy and had a freezer supply at my house and even at my parents house. When my supply started to dwindle, we were able to live off the supply for a bit. I officially stopped breastfeeding after Christmas when I thought I had the flu and had to take some crazy meds…but it did help us save (and obviously, was great for the babies). I’m not against formula and was actually grateful when I could put the boys on it..(so much less pressure – don’t judge me! lol) so don’t feel bad if you weren’t able to breastfeed!
3. Saved on Formula.
- Avoided buying formula WITHOUT a coupon and combined the coupons with formula sales.
Even while I was breastfeeding, I saved all of the Similac and Enfamil coupons that I received in the mail, just in case. These came in handy when I needed to purchase formula. I browsed the formula sales in advance and used the coupons in combination with the sale which helped us save drastically. This site is a great site to help you survey the sales and figure out what places are best and what coupons to use.
- When I ran out of coupons, I posted about it on Facebook, to see if anyone had any they didn’t use.
When I ran out of formula coupons, I posted on facebook. It went something like this: “Hi everyone. Both of the boys are officially on formula, and as you know, formula for twins can get pretty expensive. If anyone has any formula coupons they don’t use or don’t want, please let me know.” And just like that, my post got a lot of responses from friends whose babies no longer used them or didn’t need them for some reason. People began to save them for me and mailed them to my house! People still save them and send them to me. Never underestimate the kindness of people (or even fellow bloggers like Bree who are beyond thoughtful..love her). Every little bit helps!
- Never left the doctor’s office without free samples.
I was reminded of this by Bree as well. It’s true, doctor’s offices get these samples for free and for the purpose of giving out, so don’t be afraid to ask. My doctor’s office has no issues and every time we leave the office, we ALWAYS leave with samples of formula. Huge help.
- Wasn’t afraid to buy store brand.
Target has great formula and it’s $10 cheaper than Similac. On top of that, if you download the Target Cartwheel Coupon app, they often have an extra 10% off Target formula coupon.
4. Get the biggest bang for your buck on diapers. Browse around first and don’t be afraid to switch brands.
When it comes to diapers, I typically buy from three brands – Pampers, Diapers, or Huggies. I’ve tried the cheaper generic diapers in the past but have paid for it when it has leaked through or stained/ruined good baby clothing. Therefore, we decided to stick with a few favorites. Luvs at Target is $25 for a box of 148. Target usually has a sale where if you buy ____ boxes, you get a gift card. The gift card you can use right away pretty much. I always pay for the boxes of diapers in one transaction, and then use the gift card for whatever I have left, in addition to any Target Cartwheel coupons or regular coupons I have. For example, this past week Target had a deal where if you bought 2 boxes of Luvs, you would receive a $10 gift card. The price per diaper (for a size 3) ends up being about 14 cents a diaper. Not bad! If you are a Huggies or Pampers fan (which I am, but have switched to Luvs since it’s cheaper and works well) they offer you a $20 gift card for each $37.99 box. That ends up being about 20 cents a diaper. There are diaper deal websites that will tell you how to combine coupons to receive super cheap diapers..but I don’t buy anything that’s under 140 count. With twins, it’s not worth the hassle to me.
5. Deferred some of my student loans.
I got a little “break” from paying my student loans while on leave. This saved me about $150 and more monthly.
6. Made necessary sacrifices…like choosing to share a car instead of buying another.
My car went last year in the spring. Instead of buying an additional car we decided to share and make it work through the summer, since the car we own has no car payments (paid it off early knowing I would be going on leave, saving us $250 a month). To this day, we still share a car. We plan on buying one before I go back to work (I go back in a month, we’ve started to browse just a little)…and though its’ been extremely HARD and has made for some very b-o-r-i-n-g days but it has been worth the sacrifice and savings.
7. Couponed a lot more than usual.
Being on leave turned me into a big couponer. I’m by no means an “Extreme Couponer” (in the words of Sweet Brown, ain’t nobody got time for that!) but here is what I do:
- Buy Saturday paper. Cut coupons. Browse all of the circulars and see what coupons to combine and browse websites such as krazycouponlady which take the work out of it and tell you what coupons can be combined where..and they have a comprehensive list of stores on their site.
- Combine clipped coupons with print out register coupons (i.e. Register Rewards, Extrabucks, whatever you want to call it) to get the best possible prices possible (I have paid as little as 64 cents for formula, not bad).
- Go to coupon websites such as coupons.com, Redplum, P&G
- Load coupons on to my reward cards where possible. Walgreens now allows you to load coupons to your card!
- At Walgreens use the monthly savings book (has extra coupons), at CVS hit the Kiosk to see what coupons print out…I don’t go to Rite-Aid much.
8. Meal planned and bought accordingly.
I’ll be honest, meal planning is not something that I did before the boys were born. When I was looking up ways to be thrifty and save, it was a topic that kept coming up. So that’s what I did. I planned my meals and purchased items according to the plan. This helped out because it meant that I almost always had the ingredients I needed and didn’t have to run to the store and spend more money on something I forgot. It doesn’t take long either (at least not the way I do it). I keep it simple and write out a rough outline of what I’m cooking what days, add the ingredients I need to my grocery list and it’s a done deal.
9. Ordered my groceries online.
You may be thinking, what? Isn’t there a charge for that? And the answer is yes. Where I shop, there is a $10 charge for ordering groceries online..but I order them anyway. I actually SAVE money ordering online than when I go to the store. First off, when I go to the store I almost always forget things, whether I have my list or not..or I give up after awhile and just say “ehh, I’ll come back later.” This is especially if the store is crowded or if it seems like I have been shopping for an eternity. I start to get impatient. On top of that, I end up with more than I intended and with things that are not on the list. I don’t take the time to calculate everything because I get impatient or because I forget midway through so it’s just kind of a mess. People from my job introduced me to the gloriousness of online grocery shopping and I haven’t looked back since!
- You can work on your list all week and preorder your groceries for a certain day.
- You can still use coupons just like you would at the store.
- There are almost always promotions that waive the $10 charge.
- You get exactly what you need with the click of a button.
- You don’t have to spend time in the store dealing with the crowds or anything else.
There are drawbacks too, but I feel like the benefits outweigh them! I online grocery shop twice a month…I love it.
10. Redefined what our “date nights” meant.
My husband and I still had our date nights, but not every date night was necessary a night out. Sometimes it would be as simple as watching a movie on Netflix, eating some chocolate, drinking some soda…and just relishing the quiet.
I just wanted to share some of what we did to make it through. I’m by no means recommending this for everyone (after all, every family is different) but just wanted to share! It hasn’t been easy and it hasn’t been perfect, but we have been able to make it through by the grace of God. God also ALWAYS provided for us (I wrote a post about some of the awesome ways He did so here) and I’ve learned that in the end, I need to trust God. It’s been really helpful because it has been like a training for when my husband leaves his job in September to stay home with our little ones.
Are you thrifty or frugal? Have any tips you would like to share? I would love to hear them! I’m always looking for new ways to save.